‘Sick’ Acts Warrant Stiff Penalties for Former Mississippi Officers, Lawyer Says

Michael Corey Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker will bravely walk into a federal courtroom in Mississippi this week to face six former Rankin County law enforcement officers who tortured them for hours. A single bullet nearly silenced Jenkins’ voice forever.

“This has been very hard for me, for us, this last year,” Jenkins said during a press conference on Monday ahead of three days of sentencing hearings for the disgraced former officers.

The now-33-year-old stood stronger than he did a year ago when Capital B first interviewed him weeks after he was released from the hospital. The thin man had large white gauze pads and medical tape surrounding most of his neck to cover where the bullet exited.

“I’m hoping for the best, preparing for the worst,” Jenkins said briefly into the scrum of news cameras and microphones.

Speaking appears to still be a challenge for him. The bullet caused permanent brain damage and sliced through his tongue that was surgically removed due to the damage, his attorney previously told Capital B.

On Tuesday, Hunter Elward, the deputy who shot Jenkins, and Jeffrey Middleton were the first to be sentenced in connection with the unthinkable crimes that occurred on Jan. 24, 2023. Elward received 20 years; Middleton got 17 years and six months. They, along with Brett McAlpin, Christian Lee Dedmon, Daniel Opdyke, and former Richland, Mississippi, K-9 officer Joshua Hartfield, faced up to 70 years in federal prison for multiple charges they pleaded guilty to in August. The judge has the discretion to have the sentences run consecutively.

“They should be given what they gave me and Michael Jenkins…which was No Mercy and the[y] should be given THE MAXIMUM SENTENCE,” Parker wrote in his prepared victim impact statement.

Moments later, Elward was granted the opportunity to say whatever he wanted before the judge decided his punishment. He faced Jenkins and Parker to apologize, CNN reported.

“I’m so sorry that I caused that. I hate myself for it,” Elward said. His public act of remorse moved Parker, who has been in therapy since the attack, to stand up in the courtroom.

“We forgive you, mane,” Parker said. Jenkins nodded in the affirmative, CNN reported.

Capital B reached out to the former officers’ defense attorneys for comment prior to their court appearances this week.

Jason M. Kirschberg, an attorney representing Opdyke, said in an emailed statement that his client “admitted he was wrong and feels deep remorse for the pain he caused the victims.”

In court on Wednesday, Opdyke’s attorney, Jeff Reynolds, revealed that his client was the whistleblower, the Associated Press reported. Opdyke and Dedmon were sentenced on Wednesday to 17½ and 40 years, respectively, in prison.

The last two former officers, Hartfield and McAlpin, were sentenced on Thursday. Hartfield received 10 years, and McAlpin 37 years and three months.

Separately, Dedmon, Elward, and Opdyke pleaded guilty in another federal case stemming from an incident in December 2022 where a white man’s civil rights were violated by Dedmon. As Dedmon beat, used a stun gun, and fired a gun near the victim’s head to force a confession, Elward and Opdyke stood by and didn’t stop the brutality that included sexual violence. Their attack on this third survivor was included in their sentences for brutalizing Jenkins and Parker.

Dedmon was identified as the official organizer of both incidents.

Eddie Terrell Parker escorts Mary Jenkins, mother of Michael Corey Jenkins, into the Thad Cochran United States Courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi, on Tuesday for the sentencing of two of the six former Rankin County law enforcement officers who tortured the men. (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)
Eddie Terrell Parker escorts Mary Jenkins, mother of Michael Corey Jenkins, into the Thad Cochran United States Courthouse in Jackson, Mississippi, on Tuesday for the sentencing of two of the six former Rankin County law enforcement officers who tortured the men. (Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press)

“The sentence should match the crime”

“Never in the history of the United States of America, and in this state, have you had six police officers plead guilty and head to court for sentencing at the same time,” Malik Z. Shabazz, an attorney for Jenkins and Parker, said at the news conference.

Keeping track of how many law enforcement officers have been prosecuted and convicted for almost killing someone can be difficult. Philip M. Stinson, a professor of criminal justice at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, comes close with his Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database that tracks arrests of non-federal law enforcement officers between 2005 and 2018. However, without logging acquittals, convictions, and dismissals, the picture is incomplete.

The Mapping Police Violence database is helpful in tracking fatal police brutality cases in the U.S. and their resolutions going back to 2013. There have been more than 12,000 incidents, yet less than 1% of families received justice, according to an analysis of the database. In most of those 49 cases, the former law enforcement officer more than likely received a sentence that was less severe than what a first-time offender would get under similar circumstances.

“Some of these other sentences that you have been hearing [about] across the country — this officer got three years, another got two years, another got probation, another got six but will only serve two — we don’t expect to hear any of that,” Shabazz said.

Some examples:

  • One of the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd received three years in prison.

  • Kim Potter, a former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer, was sentenced to two years in prison for killing Daunte Wright when she mistook her service weapon for her stun gun.

  • Three former Pennsylvania police officers were given probation for the stray bullet death of 8-year-old Fanta Bility.

  • Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago police officer convicted of killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, was sentenced to six years but only served three.

  • Jason Volpe, a former New York Police Department officer who brutally sodomized Abner Louima, was released early from his 30-year federal prison sentence.

Read More: Does Sentencing Day Help Families Heal, or Open Old Wounds?

Shabazz classifies what happened to his clients as “sick.”

“History was made today in Mississippi, where no white police officers have ever been prosecuted for harming a Black person,” Shabazz said in a statement Wednesday. “All of these ‘Goon Squad’ sentences are sending a serious message to all rogue police and other ‘Goon Squads’ all over America, that justice is coming to you.”

The disgraced former law enforcement officers may also owe millions of dollars in court fines, according to figures tallied by the Associated Press. Those court fines don’t specify what percentage goes toward restitution payments for Jenkins and Parker, who also have a pending $400 million civil lawsuit against the officers. With the conclusion of the criminal case, the associated civil case usually gets resolved soon afterward.

The former officers also pleaded guilty to state charges that include home invasion, aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and obstruction of justice. Their state sentences will run concurrently with their federal sentences, but the federal decision will determine the eventual length.

“What was done can’t be erased”

Parker, 38, said this incident has taken him on “a roller coaster I’m still riding.”

“My family is also affected by this, they worry more about my safety. My financial situation has taken a very crucial hit also. I am terrified of the public. My mind is all messed up and my emotions are sometimes all over the map,” Parker wrote and said in court.

Before all of this, he said, his life wasn’t perfect, but it was his.

“​​I wish I didn’t have to experience the memory of this torture session but I can’t do that either. I can’t erase my memories but I will struggle to live on,” Parker wrote.

Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, was a regular winter day for Jenkins and Parker. Unbeknownst to them, a group of white law enforcement officers were in a group chat called “Goon Squad” plotting “a mission” that would call for “no bad mugshot” — the excessive physical abuse would avoid the suspect’s face.

As Jenkins was hanging out in Parker’s Braxton, Mississippi, home, the six law enforcement officers burst through the front door. Jenkins and Parker were handcuffed as the officers ransacked and searched the house, allegedly for drugs.

They were repeatedly punched, kicked, slapped, and shocked with stun guns for nearly two hours. Parker and Jenkins said the deputies poured water and milk over their faces while accusing them of dating white women. At one point, one or more of the former officers threatened to use a sex toy to molest both men.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sleep again at night. I am in constant fear someone will break into my home and terrorize me again. I fear I will be attacked again or even killed by police in Rankin,” Parker wrote.

They were also forced to do other sadistic acts that as men are extremely humiliating topics to discuss at all, let alone publicly. Because of the former officers’ perverse conduct, “a strong message must be sent to the nation that this type of outrageous activity and outrageous incidents will not be tolerated,” Shabazz said.

Those white officers’ reign of terror upon Black men ended when Elward put his gun into Jenkins’ mouth and shot him. Jenkins barely survived the police bullet that severely damaged his tongue and burrowed out of his neck.

By the middle of August, the officers were fired from their jobs and had pleaded guilty in federal and state courts. Calls for Sheriff Bryan Bailey to resign have increased as Jenkins and Parker continue to suffer emotionally, mentally, and physically with constant flashbacks of that night.

“What happened shouldn’t have never happened. Damien Cameron … would agree,” Parker said.

Cameron, 29, was allegedly beaten to death in 2021 while in the custody of Rankin County sheriff’s deputies that included Elward. A grand jury declined to indict the officers in October 2022.

Capital B has reached out to Jason Dare, an attorney representing the sheriff’s department, for comment.

“I’m just hoping everything that comes out of this comes out right, because everything needs to be done right because everything was done wrong,” Parker said at the press conference on Monday. “What was done already, mane, can’t be erased, mane, can’t be taken back. I relive this everyday.”

This story has been updated.

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